Coronavirus And Our New Realities: Living With Uncertainty

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March 17, 2020
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Uncertainty is unavoidable in life. Whether you’re the type to go with the flow or you’re the type who likes everything planned and controlled in advance, the current state of the coronavirus pandemic is making life stressful. There are many questions to ask, yet still so few answers. So, while we wait for vital information and new developments, exactly how do we live with the uncertainty of the first global pandemic in over a decade?

Perhaps, before we go any further, I urge you to relax. No, not in a cliché way. After all, you’re entitled to be uncertain and perhaps outright afraid. But still, it’s important to stop, take a deep breath, and analyze the situation fully. We are in a time where it’s really easy to be fearful. However, living with fear doesn’t mean living in fear. With the spread of the novel coronavirus across the world — as well as the associated fatalities — it is expected that people will be fearful and uncertain. Nevertheless, we must cope with the reality of the situation and figure out ways to maintain our health not only physically, but mentally as well.

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Should I Be Scared of the Coronavirus?

Yes and no. While it is critical to prevent widespread infection, the average person who comes down with COVID-19 (the formal name for this coronavirus strain) will experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover fully. However, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised experience high fatality rates as a result of the virus, which is why it’s critical that we stop the spread. Thus, if you are generally of good health and are not elderly, this coronavirus likely will not bring you much woe. That’s the good news. On the other hand, if you are elderly, have pre-existing health conditions — especially respiratory conditions, and/or you know someone who is in one or multiple of the aforementioned groups — there is room for concern for their sake.

How Do I Cope With This Uncertainty?

It’s totally fair to find this situation unsettling. Not knowing if or when you or someone you know can get the virus is scary. It’s arguably even scarier that, despite the precautions that you and your loved ones may be taking, others may not be taking those said precautions. It seems as if people are clearing grocery shelves of toilet paper but are forgetting the importance of watching their hands. Don’t let that reality freak you out too much. It is what it is, and there are ways to cope and living happily with this looming uncertainty.

What’s the Best Way to Handle COVID-19 Uncertainty, Social Distancing, and Potential Quarantine?

By now, we’re sure that you’re well aware of the terms ‘social distancing’ and ‘quarantine,’ but that doesn’t change the dread, depression, and anxiety that may be associated with those situations. Being lonely can take a toll on your psyche, but here are some tips to stay sane.

Focus on what you can control — not what you can’t

It’s never good to focus on the things that are out of you’re control — but it’s especially not good in a crisis! Since the strain of the coronavirus is rather new, there is a lot of uncertainty even in the medical field. However, we can’t let that certainty make us live in a constant state of fear. We may be facing a pandemic whose uncertainty is magnified by the depression and anxiety caused by isolation, but there is still so much we can control, like:

  • How often we check in with friends and family. Using FaceTime, text messaging, and phone calls are all great ways to keep in touch with the people for whom you care more. (Pro-tip: do this often. It’ll help cure the loneliness and raise your moods.)
  • The cleanliness of our living space. Studies show that a cleaner living space makes a happier individual! Even if you hate cleaning, take some time to do so. It’ll pay off once you’re enjoying your clean, fresh space.
  • How you stay busy. You decide how you spend your time, so spend it doing things that bring you joy, comfort, and peace.

Exercise and move your body

Exercise is great for your mood, and it helps strengthen your body and immune system as well. Remember: strong, healthy bodies are critical to fighting off nasty viruses like COVID-19, and there’s no better time than the present to make that a priority. Find some online workout videos that you like, take it back to basics with bodyweight workouts, dance all your worries away to your favorite songs, do yoga, and/or go for a nice walk — but only if you know not to interact with others in the process.

Self-care

Self-care isn’t a privilege; it’s a right. You deserve to feel happy or — at the very least, content. That can be hard to do with the constant news cycle going on right now and all of the fear-mongering. Turn off the news, get off of social media, and focus on the things that make you happiest.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to self-care, and self-care looks different for everyone. For some people, self-care involves bubble baths and candles. For others, it involves binge-watching movies. For others, it may be devouring a new book. And still for others, self-care may be a quiet morning on the porch enjoying the fresh air with some coffee. If you feel that your anxiety is out of control, reach out to a professional therapist. This can be done online from home. Choose the self-care habits that work for you and do them every day without fail.

The timeline for the resolution of this pandemic is unclear, which is yet another frustrating uncertainty about this coronavirus. But, you know what? When all the fear and frenzy about COVID-19 passes, keep doing the aforementioned routine. Focus on what you can control. Focus on moving your body. Focus on self-care. You deserve it.

Alexis Dent is an essayist, author, and entrepreneur. Her work is primarily focused on mental illness, relationships, and pop culture. You can find her writing in Washington Post, Greatist, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and more.